Fate Shuffles The Cards
By Viggo Mortensen and Fabián Casas - translated by Ollie, Remolina and Zoe
6 December 2014
Huge victory. We needed a match like this. Although we had a numeric advantage from the 8th minute when they sent Olave off, the Belgrano goalkeeper, San Lorenzo had been controlling the ball and dominating the match from the start - and continued that way for almost the whole match. CASLA didn't play wonderfully, but they were effective. The team has to continue being focused until they go to Morocco for the Club World Cup. To gain more confidence, they need a couple of victories in a row, or at least several well-played matches. I'm writing you from my mother's old house in northern New York State. This morning before getting out of bed, I thought that if we get to the final winning the first match in Marrakesh, we could win against Real Madrid. I was still half asleep, but I saw it clearly at that moment. After a few mates, already seeing the first flakes of today's predicted snowstorm fall, I keep thinking that it's possible. I'm not afraid of a thrashing by the Merengues [tr. note: nickname for Real Madrid]. How you look at things can change like that, suddenly, without explanation. Such optimism probably sounds crazy, but let's see what happens next month. As Schopenhauer said, "Fate shuffles the cards and we play."
Last night I saw an enjoyable soccer match, well fought and dramatic, between the national teams of Uruguay and Costa Rica, that was played in the Centenario of Montevideo. With two minutes left, it seemed that the locals had a well-controlled 3-2 victory, but they got careless and the Ticos [tr. note: Costa Ricans' nickname] tied the match. Also in the penalty shoot-out, the Charrúas [tr. note: people from Uruguay] were winning 4-2 and it seemed they had it solved. It wasn´t to be. I hate resolutions by penalties. It had been a good match, very even, and the players deserved to continue playing. It seems to me that the Uruguayans had the better team, and that, in general, they had played a little better, but the Costa Ricans never surrendered, were never intimidated. They played as they did in the recent World Cup. That´s the way San Lorenzo always has to play in Morocco, in Argentina and everywhere. As they did at home today against Pirata [tr. note: Belgrano´s nickname].
Paulo Wanchope, D.T. of Costa Rica
Hello Viggo. I'm buried under boxes of books, wrapping paper and baskets. I just finished moving out, the moving that took me three weeks had its final moment this past Saturday when with friends (Lisandro, the Cowboy, Noel, Strozza, Rucho, Domín, Sebastián, Ramiro, Miguel, my brother Juan and Luli, Guada´s cousin), we moved the 3,500 books and the furniture and household appliances. It made me really sad to leave the house that you know, but Anita´s school and a quieter neighbourhood required it. When on Sunday I went alone to get the things that were left, I went through the empty house and I broke down crying like crazy. (Ernesto Guevara would have shot me for being a weakling.) I realized that the house is form and content, never pure form. You can have the biggest and most beautiful house, but if nothing happens inside it, it's not good. Like in the great poems, like in the great novels. In that house, I became a father and I looked at the empty corner where the armchair was where I used to flop down to sleep fully dressed when baby Anita wore me out. Or the kitchen where we would eat with friends, or the terrace where Rita would run from one end to the other while I looked at the moon over the city and smoked. While I cried, I remembered some verses by Miguel Hernández that said "painted, not empty, painted is my home, with the colour of great passions and misfortunes." Never said better. Yesterday, before closing the door, I gave a kiss to each one of the walls, a big, passionate kiss. I was convinced that the house is a living being!
I find beauty after beauty in what you describe, brother. Rita is an unsurpassed genius; she´ll run in the new house too, and that will help you to build the new nest. I have also finished moving from one side of a city - Madrid, in my case - to another. When we went to hand in the key and say goodbye to the old home where so much happened to us, my girlfriend and I also cried. An inconsolable weeping that only time can stop, slowly, and become memory in sweet fragments of remembrance, in pieces of cloth with fading colours, in a final [emotional] hangover. I understand you so well, my friend! 2014 has been and continues being a year of transitions: you and Guada and Lisandro and Coca will be parents a second time; we all attended, from May in Cannes until December in Argentina, to the birth of the cinematographic dream called Jauja; we won the Libertadores [Cup] and on every corner, in every drag [of a cigarette], every raindrop, every unexpected rotten trick from this world, we always sought the love that there is and that they often try to prohibit, or that we try to kill in spite of our deepest, fragile desire. Because we have no option, because we luckily ignore how to find an order to what is happening to us, because deep down we know there´s no explanation for what is happening to us. I love you so much, Cuervo. As Edgar Allan Poe, the great and suffering poet of the shadows from Baltimore - that huge Cuervo - said: "Experience has shown, and a true philosophy will always show, that a vast, perhaps the larger portion, of the truth arises from the seemingly irrelevant." A house is never only a house, a book is never only a book, a sigh is never only a sigh. Things are always happening, and we better take notice of and recognise the value and the mystery of things without asking for definitive explanations. I want to live in this world, I want to see your new house, and that you see mine. I want to see the new children and play with them like the child that I am.
Edgar Allan Poe
Of course the house is a living being; everything we touch, see, imagine and cry over lives through us and are extensions of us. We are a miniscule part of an infinite braided chain, and everything lives and dies together even if we don't realize it.
There´s an empty house and a full house and I don´t know in which one I´m in. Today I woke up with a storm taking over the sky. I closed large windows that I don´t know and doors and windows that have their tricks that are still a secret to me. Then I woke Anita up and drove her to school. Since she finishes on December 17, I have to take and bring her back every morning. Which is tiring. I leave her at the school and for more than three hours, I wander around the city, in my old neighbourhood, where the school is. I spent the time today reading a book about Zen that I like very much; it´s by Alberto Silva who is somehow rewriting Zen as Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki did at the time. There's something that hit me about Silva - the importance that he gives, from his perspective, to the Zen of being incarnated in a body. Zen can only be practiced if one is in a body. That is to say, the body is not a prison for the soul; it's indivisible from the soul. And I think something like that about my old house. I realized that just like nature can observe itself through man, my house - that is not nature since it is an artifact constructed by man - observes and feels itself through me. In that way, I know without doubt that my house misses me as much as I miss it.
Today was a very long day within an infinite week with my parents in the midst of moments of family transition and tremendous snowstorms. For the last week, I've been helping my parents in upstate New York, here along the border with Canada marked by the St. Lawrence River. Almost two meters of snow has fallen in two days around here and it continues snowing. A record. There's a little less snow where I actually am, but enough so that it's difficult moving on foot or by car. My mother is still the same. It's difficult for her to move and pronounce words because of the Parkinson's disease and dementia that is gradually taking over her brain and body, but, like always, she tries. When she can, she smiles in spite of her pain. She´s the most optimistic and courageous woman I know. We look at each other for long stretches, staring but quiet like two friendly wolves, and we understand each other perfectly. My old man is more complicated. Well, "complicated" isn't exactly the word. More difficult is what he is. He doesn't allow you to help him, fears letting people in, fears any show of vulnerability - his and those of others - and, deep down, I think that he profoundly fears death. His resistance based on fear is understandable; that's why he doesn't allow himself to be helped but he makes a lot more work for those of us who love him and continue to look after him. I have problems with death, too, but until now I continue fighting with it. I neither invite it nor accept it; I'm in no hurry to dance with it. We have an appointment pending, but I continue to tell it to get in line with the other things that overwhelm me. I suppose my Dad has his way of fighting with it, something that only he understands. My mother is a bullfighter and my father, the way I see it, is a bull. They are different attitudes for confronting the physical and mental suffering of the body in decline. Things that happen in life's final stages.
Now I'm in Manhattan. I left the north with a lot of luck; the snowstorms continue complicating the departures and arrivals of all of the travelers in the area close to Lake Ontario. Tonight, I will join others who will present readings brought together by the great historian and humanist Howard Zinn in his important history book, Voices of a People's History of the United States, co-edited with Anthony Arnove. We are celebrating the tenth anniversary of its publication, speaking and singing a selection of texts contained in it. I've been asked to read a text from Bartolomé de Las Casas who describes the brutality of the supposedly Christian conquistadors who, with the Genovese mercenary Christopher Columbus, began to arrive from Iberia to the lands that today are Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba, among other places in the New World, with the goal of enriching themselves at the cost of nature and the beings that were living more or less harmoniously there at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century. That text, like the others in Zinn's book, gets to the heart of the historical reality of the invasion and conquest of the Americas. In all tribes and nations of the world, there exists what some call Foundation Myths. These myths are usually employed to justify and impose the current status quo, no matter how unjust it might be. In this book, however, we have historical testimonials or contemporary reactions to socio-political events that have contributed to creating and giving continuity to what we call the United States of America. For me, these texts collected by Zinn are Foundation Facts.
It happens everywhere all the time, this secret struggle between facts and myths. In CASLA too. It´s a fact that our club was born by the hand of Lorenzo Massa, and that it has had glorious moments and pitiful moments, but it's a myth that we Cuervos prefer this club above any other because it deserves our devotion more than other clubs, or because supernatural powers have decreed that San Lorenzo de Almagro has a special status, blessed and infallible. On the other hand, I'm completely convinced that it's an historical fact we Cuervos are the most long-suffering and passionate supporters, the ones who cheer best in this world. And that is transmitted to almost all the players that put on the azulgrana. Made of principles, sweat and tears. What is a principle? It's what orients our behavior. They are maxims, like not lying, respecting others and life. The authentic Cuervos live those principles; they practice them. Fabián, you spoke before in this column of the importance of respecting the adversary, of playing and being a supporter with demanding codes [of behavior], with certain moral principles. Sometimes, for Cuervos, this is put to a test of fire where Club Atlético Huracán is concerned. A few weeks ago I told an Argentine journalist that I thought that our Quemeros [tr. note: nickname for Huracán] neighbors were going to win the Copa Argentina. Now they are in the final against Rosario Central. I wish them a lot of luck. Boedo and the south of the capital is a large enough area to hold two champions from the same neighborhood. I hope that our cousins, whose club was born, like ours, in 1908, manage to bring the Cup to our shared area instead of letting the scoundrels take it to Arroyito. After delivering the words of the Dominican friar adventurer Bartolomé de Las Casas, I will try to catch the night flight to Ezeiza, where Lisandro is going to pick me up in his car to take us to Mar del Plata, where we will present Jauja in Argentina for the first time. Are you likely to come too? It would be great to be able to be the three of us in a car again, setting off on a new adventure. We'll see if you can join us, now that you are nervously circling your nest a few weeks before the arrival of the new member of your family, but I understand perfectly that perhaps it's not possible for you to get away.
Yes, the terrible fathers. This week my old man gave me headaches. And I don't think they are over. I'm always reminded - and even more with what you told me of your old man - of the poem by Dylan Thomas in which he asks his father not to enter death with fear. I'm sure you've read it. Each time I read it, I start to cry, even if I'm in an inconvenient place like having breakfast in a downtown pizzeria. On the other hand, I'm a father and I have the responsibilities that that implies: on one hand, as a son, I see my father's sun setting, and on the other, I see my daughter's dawn. It's enough to make you crazy. Anyway, those responsibilities that love brings - caring for my wife, my daughter, my dog Rita and for my brothers and my old man - I think they turn into fuel that keeps us upright in the world, walking the earth with inner strength. I am three weeks from being a new father. Tonight I'm getting my bag ready to go to Mar del Plata to present Jauja, and to say to you, as I always do when I see you, "Welcome home, Cuervo!"
Thanks, Fabián! Then you are coming with Lisandro in the car after all. That's great! I'm anxious to arrive and see both of you again. We'll assemble our team to go out on the pitch with Jauja at the 29th Mar de Plata International Film Festival. Great. In Mar del Plata, there's a group of Cuervo supporters that's called "Arriba Ciclón" [tr. note: Upward Ciclón] founded in 1981 the day after San Lorenzo's descent to "B." Maybe we can meet with some of the members of this group during our stay. I've just finished saying in an interview in which the recent history of the Middle East was broached in general terms, that Winston Churchill had fascist tendencies and was instrumental in organizing the mess we have nowadays in Iraq, an area sunk in chaos and brutality, partly overseen today, from the Western point of view, by the armed forces of the United States. Although it's true that Churchill was a great orator and motivator during the Allied war against the Nazis, he and his governments caused many problems in the Middle East and helped to create, along with the French, the artificial borders and the unsustainable socio-political situations that have bedeviled this part of the world for almost a century. In the ´20s, as War Secretary in the David Lloyd George government, he was behind the bombing raids carried out by British planes on the civilian population of Iraq. He vigorously supported the use of the people of that country as guinea pigs to see how the United Kingdom´s new military weapons worked. This was done to save Great Britain money and the loss of infantry soldiers in the fight against the Mesopotamian Sunni-Shia alliance. They killed thousands of people, and the operations continued even after the independence of Iraq in 1932. What the British learned from their air strikes was useful to the RAF battles against Hitler and Göring's Luftwaffe during the Second World War, but these killings of innocent people are unforgivable. Churchill and his government colleagues are unforgivable. I spoke about Churchill because the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is touring the US to promote the biography that he's written about the legendary prime minister. I think they are going to deport me. It doesn't matter, because I have to be with you in Argentina tomorrow anyway.
The young War Secretary Winston Churchill with …
While I was writing to you about my father, the title of the poem you mention is exactly what I was thinking about and it's also its first line: "Do not go gently into that good night." It's necessary to resist our physical and mental decline to make the most of the life we've got, and at the same time it is assumed that it's advisable to accept the inevitability of our departure. Complicated ! I didn't just tell you about Thomas´poem because, with my son Henry, I had recently seen Christopher Nolan´s multi-million dollar film, Interstellar, in which Michael Caine repeats this sentence time after time and others from the Welsh poet. When I think about my old man, I think above all about the third line of Dylan Thomas' poem: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light," a line that is also repeated in Interstellar. My father is complying with what that line asks for; he's fighting against that slow blackout and if truth be told, it seems fine to me that he is. See how things are? Our lives make or become a circle, or concentric circles that lock and unlock, intersect and diverge, but they are circles. Our orbits return us to changed, altered, selected pasts, but it seems to me never to pasts that we lived in at some time. With my old man, walking slowly around Manhattan, where I brought him a few days ago to renew his passport in the Danish Consulate, I was thinking about the fact that I was born almost 56 years ago in this city so important to the socio-economic empire of the USA. A beautiful city, full of challenges and creative ideas. At that moment, during the term of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the USA ruled the world. Today, the Yankee empire is in decline, or at least rules with the permission and loans of the rising Chinese empire. My father is in decline, and I am too, really. After the Manhattan visit, I took him back to his farm, where he's now surely sitting by his fireplace, looking at the sunset over the snowy field. And tonight I fly to the country where he took me in my childhood, where I was raised and I became a Cuervo shortly before you were born, brother. We share what we share, Fabián, the circles that touch and cross each other.
Nolan's film is interesting, but I think Jauja deals with the same metaphysical issues in a more effective and original way, and with a much less expensive production, too. These two films represent different styles, different challenges, but Jauja clearly shows that ideas and inventiveness are priceless. At a key moment in Nolan's story, a father finds his daughter after a long separation and has to face the physical fact that she is much older than him. Does this sound familiar to you? OK, I won't say anything else. People can see the two films and they'll take from it what they will. As I'm promoting Jauja, being part of a team, I resist the rival (films) that try to take the same route. I know it's just defensive ego nonsense, seeing another film as a rival, like some of the silly things that I say at times about CASLA, very subjective things that aren't very useful when all's said and done. Half blind passions that you feed to yourself now and then without thinking about their logic, without reasoning. Half psychotic outbursts. Nolan's work has some very clumsy dialogue alongside some that's decently written and performed. It also has some exciting moments alongside some overacted ones. Visually, the film is good, sometimes very good. I'm not sure if it has a consistent level of photographic excellence like the visual work of Timo Salminen and Lisandro, but it's OK. Interstellar does not reach the heights of Tarkovsky's Solaris or Kubrik's 2001, but it's a much more intelligent film than the blockbusters that come from the big studio system and is worth seeing.
We'll see each other tomorrow in the middle of the southern spring. I close with this before getting on the plane, knowing that once we reach Mar del Plata, we'll enjoy the match against Rafaela together.
Hugo von Hofmannstahl
That thing about circles is remarkable, Viggo. I just remembered while I was reading what you wrote about the circular detours with your father, a Hofmannsthal poem that states, in its refrain: "The power of the circle defeats death."
Well, somehow circular things are always present in our lives. We seem to walk a straight line, but that is only an illusion of our intellect. Anyway, we have just seen the match against Rafaela and it seems that CASLA always goes around in the same place too. They win one or two matches and then they lose another, just like today's, playing unenthusiastically, without conviction. It's a bipolar team that doesn't reach a balance. I think Bauza is trying to get the triple five to work with a little more offensive five like Kalinski. I don't know, the matches for the World Championship are already here. I think that a lot will depend on getting Real Madrid out of the game. Real is a team that somehow distorts soccer. It's like those millionaire women who go shopping and buy whatever they want and more. Madrid's board of directors did the same thing with Brazil's World Cup; they went through the grid of matches, showed the credit card and took away the best that was for sale. That's what we'll have to play against, among other things.
I'm still convinced that San Lorenzo is ready to achieve the great feat in Marrakesh. I don't know why I see it so clearly, why I feel so much at ease. It's true that Real Madrid, apart from having enough high quality players to assemble two teams aspiring to win the Spanish League and another Champions, is playing at a very high level right now, defending well, scoring goals on the ground with a good play of short passes added to their usual strong counterattack. Real Madrid is a Panzer escorted by a pack of wolves. A fearsome opponent for any team, and an overwhelming nightmare for one as inconsistent as the current San Lorenzo. But...I see CASLA arriving in Morocco without fear or complexes, without the weight of expectations, with practically nobody who follows Argentine soccer right now seriously thinking that Ciclón can play the whites [tr. note: Real Madrid's colour] on the same level. The way I see it, that is a psychological advantage. And beyond that, I have a premonition that can't be explained, that I just feel. We wanted the Cup and we won it. Now, fearless, we want the other. No need to explain it. Fabián, you sometimes talk to me about judo. San Lorenzo, against Real Madrid, will be able to try, as is done in judo, to use the force of the others to overcome them. As Hermann Hesse said, "Gentleness is stronger than severity; water is stronger than rock; love is stronger than violence."
Triumphant premiere for Jauja in Mar del Plata! Very good reaction in the Astor Piazzolla Room last night. Congratulations, Cuervo! For many, apart from the beauty of Timo's photography and the managing of time and the dream-like transitions by Lisandro, the attraction of the film seems to emerge from the film's last fifteen minutes. The everyday ordinary viewer as well as the veteran journalists who've attended the film's showings at different international festivals seem to be left with very interesting questions. The film provokes and inspires many viewers in a visceral way, according to what we're told everywhere by those who've just seen it. Tonight it was more of the same. To say it another way, the audience fights with itself about the numerous philosophical questions that one can have with respect to Jauja. Lisandro did well to ask the public some questions during the discussion, questions like, "Does the dog exist or not?" or "Is the woman in the cave real or not?" Your final sentence summed up very well the amusing and somewhat surreal exchange that we had in the gala premiere in The Pearl of the Atlantic: "If you see the film backwards, Darín appears!" I'll take that headline for our days in Mar del Plata!
We were also visited by the spirit of the great Cuervo player Manco Casas. During the press conference, we talked a bit about Victorio, who was born on October 28, 1943 in Mar del Plata and was a leading figure in San Lorenzo in the '60s. We dedicated our first official screening of Jauja to Manco.
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